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Santa Maria del Fiore, the Cathedral of Florence
About the Duomo
Residing in the heart of downtown Florence, Italy is Santa Maria del Fiore (Saint Mary of the Flowers), known to the world as the Duomo of Florence. The Duomo began construction in the 12th century, and main construction ended in the early 14th century. The fašade however was not completed until the 19th century, and the Duomo is undergoing constant preservation.
The exterior of the Duomo is covered in patterned green and white, a staple of Italian cathedrals, and is also decorated by several frescos and bas-relief sculptures. The building itself occupies approximately three city blocks and can be seen from nearly everyone inside Florence, and even as far away as some of the neighboring cities. The inside of the Duomo contains intricately decorated marble floors, but the rest of the inside is fairly simple for an Italian church, this is perhaps because the fresco adorning the dome is one of the best in Italy. The fresco, designed by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zucchari is called "The Last Judgement." One side of the dome is painted with images of heaven and the other with images of hell culminated in a very nasty looking devil.
The dome itself is amazing. At nearly 142 feet, the dome is larger than the domes of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., St. Pauls in London, the Pantheon in Rome, and even St. Peters in Vatican City. The dome remained the largest dome in the world until modern materials permitted the construction of stadium-sized domes such as the Metrodome in Minneapolis.
Visiting the Dome today
Today, tourist can climb to the top of the dome, and follow in the steps of its builders and architect. After climbing up to the dome itself, visitors can walk the interior of the cupola and get a very close look at the "Last Judgement" fresco, after that it is a clumb through the shell of the dome where one can still see the techniques that Bruneslleshi invented to create the dome. The view from the top is amazing.